Community discussion on opioid addiction March 4 in Jennings

Published 3:23 pm Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Motivational speaker Stephen Hill, who battled substance abuse addiction for more than a decade before becoming sober, will lead a community discussion on opioid addiction, prevention and awareness during a public event in Jennings.

The free event will be held 6-8 p.m. Monday, March 4, at the Grand Marais, 919 N. Lake Arthur Avenue in Jennings.

The event is sponsored by Ochsner Lafayette General, Rural Communities Opioids Response Program, Jeff Davis District Attorney Lauren Heinen and the Jeff Davis Parish School Board.

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Hill, who began using drugs and alcohol as a freshman in high school, will speak to the public about his experiences, the dangers of substance abuse, the impact of substance use can have on families and the stigma attached to substance use disorders.

The presentation will conclude with a question and answer session for any questions or concerns attendees may have after hearing Hill’s story.

Local doctors, who specialize in supporting addictions, will also address the group. Local organizations and health care agencies will have informational booths set up during the event.

Ben Oustalet, assistant superintendent of Jeff Davis Parish schools, stressed how important the program is to the community.

“Our goal is to raise awareness of the opioid crisis, not only in our state but around the country, and to provide some prevention strategies for our youth and their families to be able to deal with some of these situations,” Oustalet said.

Hill is visiting area high schools this week to share his story with 7-12 grade students in Jeff Davis Parish schools.

“I think in general, in society it is a problem,” Oustalet said of opioids and drug abuse. “I’m not necessarily going to say it is a major problem with our students, but I will not ignore the fact that it does hit home with some of our kids and our families.”

Hill is the author of “A Journey to Recovery,” a memoir about his personal experience with addiction and recovery. He is also founder of Speak Sobriety.

“You have to build awareness and always getting someone who has a real story and has been through a situation to come in and relate and talk to others can be a big help,” Oustalet said. “If you’ve saved one child, or one family, you have done something.”

Oustalet is hoping students and their families are receptive to Hill’s presentations and that the program leads to positive changes within the communities.

“It’s important in our communities that we don’t think this is not happening, this stuff is real,” he said. “And as a part of education, we try to support the well-being of every child.”